Favorite Icon, Full size
Album Review: Forever
Cover image of the album Forever by Libera
2023 / Invisible Hands Music
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Forever is the latest release from the ever-evolving British boys choir, Libera, a group of thirty boys usually ranging in ages from seven to sixteen. The boys attend many different local schools in South London and come from a variety of backgrounds. Libera was created in 1999 by the late Robert Prizeman with the vision of reinventing the sound of the English boys choirs in an inviting, contemporary context that would appeal to both classical and more pop-oriented audiences. Since then, Libera has become an international sensation, performing for popes and presidents, on PBS specials, and in venues from great cathedrals, renowned concert halls and sports stadiums to local community centers and TV stations. With well over 500,000 YouTube subscribers and approaching 200,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, I'd say that Prizeman's vision has succeeded beyond all expectations. Like 2Cellos and other artists who know no musical boundaries, Libera proves beyond a doubt that great music is great music with or without classifications or genres. As a longtime piano teacher, I love that some of our contemporary musicians and composers are trying to dissolve the invisible boundaries between classical and contemporary music, making it much more accessible (and acceptable!) to broader audiences, often to those audiences' own amazement!

The thirteen tracks on the album include new songs by former members of Libera and the last songs written by their late founder, Robert Prizeman, as well as stirring arrangements of "Be Still My Soul," "The Albinoni Adagio," and the classic Beach Boys' song, "God Only Knows." (Brian Wilson has said that Libera's arrangement of his song brought him to tears.) The boys are accompanied by spare orchestrations that enhance the sweetness of their voices without distracting from them.

Forever begins with "Beati Quorum," a joyful hymn that sets the tone of the album. Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows" is from The Beach Boys' 1966 album, Pet Sounds, and is sometimes referred to as one of the best songs ever written. A timeless classic, the 57 years since the song first graced the airwaves dissolve as Libera bring the song right up to date for a whole new generation to love. "Far Away" is one of my favorites. Written by Robert Prizeman and Takatsugu Muramatsu, it's a beautifully heartfelt prayer set to music and gives me goosebumps each time I hear it. "Ave Verum" is another favorite, and is set to the music known as "Albinoni's Adagio." (The origin of the piece is still in question, but the beauty and emotional quality of it never waivers.) I can't imagine anyone not being moved by this arrangement - absolutely gorgeous! The deeply emotional prayer, "Anima Christi," brings images of an ancient cathedral with these sweet, gentle voices floating through the air, touching all who hear them. "Be Still My Soul" is a classic hymn set to Sibelius' timeless melody from Finlandia. Very popular as both a vocal and an instrumental piece, Libera give the song a very stirring classical treatment. The last track on the album, "Love Shine a Light," is one of the four singles released before the full album and brings Forever to a soulful and very satisfying close.

Forever was released internationally on June 23, 2023. Four singles have been or are being released from the album and there are also several YouTube videos available. You can order the album and the singles from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes, and the singles are also available to stream on sites including Spotify. If you aren't yet familiar with Libera, this is a great place to start! Bravo and both thumbs up to Libera for this excellent album!
June 6, 2023
This review has been tagged as: